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  1. Technology
January 13, 1988


By CBR Staff Writer

It is widely accepted in the UK that the standards of computer literacy and the training of school leavers lag behind our EEC rivals. A report from the Research Department of the Labour Party published over the weekend, for instance, claims that Britain is in danger of becoming a country of semi-skilled rather than skilled people with only 33% having qualifications relating to the jobs. In West Germany, the equivalent figure is 79% according to the report. To Wouter Haayman, general manager of Microlife UK Ltd, however, training in the UK is good. In many ways, says Haayman, it’s better here than in West Germany and his native Netherlands. Every company here has a training manager. Training managers just don’t exist in Holland. The absence of such people, usually a member of the personnel department, does not seem to have hindered Microlife BV’s progress in its homeland. The Dutch IBM computer operator training and consultancy company currently employs 450 staff and claims that in its 10 year history it has trained around 25,000 operators.

Microlife moved into the US some time ago and now has six offices over there, but its attempt to establish itself in the UK has not been successful so far. Turnover in the first year of operation in the UK, the 12 months to October 1987, was barely ?100,000. Since then, the name has been changed from Parnassus to match that of its parent, and Wouter Haayman has been brought over from Holland to take charge. His immediate targets are a revenue of ?800,000 this year and growing the staff to 30. Longer term, Haayman is looking for ?10m to ?15m and 200 staff by 1990. Microlife UK has penetrated just 30 of the 800 large IBM sites in this country, so the potential is there. Whether Microlife can tap the market is still to be decided. Consultancy, body shopping Haayman is confident that by offering tailored training schemes it can. Courses, lasting up to five days, covering IBM’s MVS, DOS/VSE, JCL, CICS and VSAM, and Candle Corp’s Omegamon monitors are available either at Microlife’s premises or on site. The exact nature of the courses is decided by customers. Rates range from ?125 per day for a public course to ?600 to an on-site course. Weekend on-site training is offered to enable trainees to practice new found skills without disrupting normal site activities. Trainees are also encouraged to stay in touch with their tutors by phoning for guidance if they encounter problems or need advice. Microlife UK will shortly start offering consultancy and bodyshopping services. In Holland, these account for 40% and 25% of revenue respectively. Training accounts for 30% with the remainder from facilities management. The UK is likely to major on training for the foreseeable future. Later this year, Haayman says he will begin looking for acquisitions, mainly to get hold of good staff. Unlike many of its competitors, Microlife does not use freelancers, relying instead on its own employees for all its needs. Haayman believes, however, that he can persuade a worthwhile number of the estimated 8,000 freelance operators to join Microlife on a permanent basis. To start with, this recruitment will be handled by outside consultants but Haayman wants to bring this in-house as soon as possible.

The operator has traditionally been regarded as the poor relation of the programmer and systems analyst in installations. Haayman believes this perception will change as the need for better trained and more experienced operators becomes more apparent as systems and networks become larger, more complicated, and more crucial to the way firms and organisations conduct their daily business.

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